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Norovirus Outbreak Plagues Dozens Of North Carolina State University Students: Watch Out For These Symptoms

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About 60 students at the North Carolina State University have shown symptoms of norovirus, officials at the school say.

Several NC State students have reported gastrointestinal illness since Tuesday, Dec. 5, during the week of final exams. The Wake County Human Services confirmed on Thursday, Dec. 7, that it was a symptom of norovirus.

Officials said the outbreak mostly affects undergraduate students of Alexander Hall, which is home to 165 residents, though others who live on and off campus have also been infected, said the NC State's Student Health Services.

What Is Norovirus?

For the uninitiated, norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the so-called stomach bug is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, with 19 to 21 million cases each year.

What Are The Symptoms Of Norovirus?

Norovirus illness can be serious, causing severe dehydration and chronic vomiting. More importantly, it only takes a small amount of norovirus particles — fewer than 100 — to make a person feel sick. It spreads rapidly in enclosed spaces, such as daycare centers, nursing homes, cruise ships, and schools. What's more, it spreads easily through infected persons, or food, water, and surfaces contaminated with norovirus particles.

How To Avoid Norovirus

Officials say that at present, approximately 60-students have shown symptoms believed to be the result of norovirus. They encourage those who feel they may be exhibiting symptoms to wash their hands thoroughly after any bathroom visit. In addition, they shouldn't be allowed to serve food to other people.

Julie Casani, director of the university's student health services, analyzed stool kits submitted by students who have been experiencing symptoms of the virus. Three of four test samples came back positive for norovirus from the State Health Lab.

"Once you know you have it, you have it," said Casani.

Officials say students who experience symptoms should stay in their rooms. Campus students should contact their health residence advisers, and anyone else who has persistent sickness should seek medical attention. A word of warning: Norovirus kills up to 800 people each year, mostly children and the elderly, according to the CDC.

"With norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses, the most effective way to stop the spread is to practice good handwashing and personal hygiene," said the university's student health services in a statement. The CDC also recommends drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

The NC State incident is not the first of its kind. In February last year, 100 University of Michigan students were infected by the virus.

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